Our Voices

Need for Human Rights Monitoring Mechanism in Western Sahara

(April 29, 2016 | Washington, D.C.) Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights welcomes the Security Council’s decision to reauthorize the mandate for the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) and calls for the mission’s restoration to full functionality. However, the mandate shamefully continues to lack a human rights monitoring and reporting mechanism, making MINURSO the only UN peacekeeping mission established since 1978 that is still operating without a mandate to monitor human rights.

In a rare divided vote on the issue, the Security Council reauthorized MINURSO’s mandate by a vote of 10 for, 2 against, and 3 abstaining. The mandate “emphasizes the urgent need for MINURSO to return to full functionality” and announces the Security Council’s intention to “consider how best to facilitate” getting back to full functionality if it has not done so within 90 days. MINURSO has been rendered incapable of carrying out its mandate for approximately six weeks, when Morocco unilaterally expelled nearly all of the mission’s international civilian component, including its political component.

In statements after the vote, Venezuela and Uruguay, who voted against, and Russia, Angola, and New Zealand, who abstained, all made clear that they continued to support MINURSO, despite not voting for the mandate. There were various reasons each country gave for their vote, but among them was the view that the Security Council should be taking stronger action against Morocco and the view that there needed to be a more transparent process in drafting the resolution.

Despite credible information and allegations of widespread and serious human rights abuses taking place in Western Sahara, the mandate passed today failed to include a human rights monitoring and reporting mechanism. Human rights reporting is not a function that is being carried out by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), cannot be legitimately carried out by the Conseil National de Droits de l’Homme (CNDH), Morocco’s national human rights institution, and cannot be carried out by foreign journalists or international organizations because of Moroccan obstructionism. In short, by failing to include this critical piece of the mandate, the Security Council has refused to answer to the peaceful but desperate call of Sahrawis to have their grievances heard, documented, and investigated.